Monday, April 25, 2016

Mazatlan to La Paz

La Paz beach and anchorage

We've been hearing all about La Paz for years from other cruisers -- great things. There are 5 marinas here, filled with sailors who came down from the north, expecting to visit for a week or two, and have never left.

We made the 200 mile passage west from Mazatlan to La Paz
(image courtesy of Lonely Planet)

At the halfway point across the Sea of Cortez, winds started blowing from the north, 
so we decided to drop into Bahia de Los Muertos, about 50 miles south of La Paz.

We dropped anchor in the crystal clear water. Chris went ashore and had lunch in the little restaurant with our friends Daragh and Cathryn aboard s/v ChanteyV.

I chose to swim over and snorkel the reef. And, boy, was I glad I did:

40 foot visibility and tons of beautiful fish

Wow! Just gorgeous.  After my hands and feet started to get numb from the cold, I began the swim back to Espiritu. I stopped to chat with our friends aboard s/v Myla. As I treaded water and exchanged stories with them, a sea lion swam by and said hello.

"Excuse me!" I cried to my human friends as I dove below to hang out with the sea lion. Wow. There's another experience I can check off of my bucket list.

Swimming with a sea lion: check!

I told Julie aboard Myla that when swimming in SoCal, you should get very nervous when a sea lion swims by, because that probably means a great white is not far off -- sea lions are their favorite food.

But since there are no great whites in the Sea of Cortez (that we know of), I felt free to frolic.

Not 30 seconds later, though, a fisherman came by and dumped chum and what appeared to be shark parts into the ocean about 50 feet away.

Well. Chum and sea lions in the water. Guess it's time to get to Espiritu.

We said our goodbyes and I snorkeled towards the boat. As I swam, I peered through the water and at the sea floor 30 feet below, an immaculate bluish-white in all directions. 

Two dark objects soon became visible on the ocean floor. I swam closer, and once directly above I was able to see what they were: two freshly severed shark heads -- large hammerhead shark heads, resting on the white sandy bottom.  I guess the fisherman had no use for them. 

Their upside down smiles (which I guess would make them a frown) were sad and shocking to see. The way the heads were resting side by side gave the appearance they they were cuddling together for comfort. 

OK: chum, sea lions, talk of great whites and freshly severed shark heads -- I can take a hint. 

Back to the boat, STAT!

Once aboard Espiritu, Chris returned from the restaurant and reported there was a big beach BBQ and musical jam planned for later that day -- and we were invited! 

     The crews of Myla, Orca, Hotel California and ChanteyV 
            were amongst the sailors at the impromptu get-together. 
     Note in the photo they dug a hole in the sand and built
    the fire that way -- no fire pit needed. Just stick a grill on
 top and you've got a beach BBQ!

Of course, we broke out our instruments and got the party started!
          Daragh (from Dublin), Chris and I played some Irish favorites like "Whiskey Before Breakfast" and "Shove the Pigs Foot (a Little Closer to the Fire)." 

Music jam with our sailboats resting in the distance

Everybody had a great time. It's amazing what a guitar can do to turn a 
just so-so get-together into a memorable song-fest! "Chantilly Lace" and
"Doe, a Deer..." from The Sound of Music were included in our 
wide-ranging repertoir! (LOL-- we're goofballs) 

Dune buggies were here

At 0-dark-30 the next morning, all eight of the sailboats pulled anchor 
and made the 50+ mile sail north to La Paz.

After a beautiful, warm sail, we finally entered the bay. Chris and I had never been here before, so we were like wide-eyed toddlers -- all input.

We motored past this highway just outside of town. The rocks above the highway 
give the illusion of holding entrapped ghostly skeleton faces.

Hurricane Odile battered La Paz in 2014, and we passed some sailboat victims 
still resting sadly on the shore

Hurricane Odile hits La Paz, 2014

And speaking of hurricanes, I'm extremely aware of the fact that we're entering hurricane season in a few weeks. Summer in the Sea of Cortez means risk of hurricanes, and we'll be keeping a very close eye on the weather. The good news is there is usually a few days warning as they churn north from southern Mexico and the Pacific, so we'll have a chance to get to a hurricane hole and to safety.

We picked our spot in the large anchorage next to our old friends Derek and Trisha aboard Interabang. They're in that group I was talking about earlier: they sailed south from the Bay Area in 2011 and have basically never left La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. 

La Paz is it for them: home.

That night, after a dinner aboard, we settled in to watch our latest TV obsession: HBO's Treme.

As I was watching, I noted a little spotlight peeping in through the hatch:

The full moon pops in to say hello through the hatch in the upper left corner of the shot
 as Chris and I watch "Treme" on TV

We looked at each other, paused the show, and scampered out to the cockpit to view the full moon.

The full moon bathes La Paz in a warm light

The next day we went ashore and explored La Paz for the first time.

The La Paz malecon

Beach scene 

Happy   :-) 

On the waterfront

Locals enjoying the beach

OK, alright, we love it.  You can stay in the anchorage for free, but it's 15 pesos/day 
to use the Marina La Cruz dinghy dock, trash, water, etc. 

Bike rack at La Paz Marina

OK, so we're anchored in paradise. Again. We're fortunate and excited about exploring the Sea of Cortez. But it's not PERFECT.

For one thing, it's almost May, and we really should be sweating like Nixon by now. But each morning we're breaking out the fleece and the thick socks just to have coffee in the cockpit. 

The water is 71 degrees, but I'm swimming every afternoon anyway, dammit.

We're in Mexico -- we're in the tropics. And I'm swimming. Period.

There's a daily cruiser's net at 0800 on channel 22. Yesterday the net predicted "zero chance" of rain. #facepalm  You know what THAT means. Later that afternoone we caught this view from our cockpit:

Yep. After the net so foolishly predicted a "zero" chance of rain, THIS happened. Rain. When "The Powers That Be" hear anyone say there is a "zero" chance of rain (or anything), well, they feel compelled to act. 

We saw this scary sign for the "Psycho Circus." Yikes! Gracias, no.

This sign was painted at the entrance to a restaurant on the malecon. Hmmm. IMHO this sign painter is a bit misguided. Yes, far too many people use religion as an excuse to judge and hate. But some of the kindest, most loving people I know are "religious." 

I think we can all agree: "haters" are bad, and "open minds" and "hearts full of love" are good, right!

And we can just leave it at that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Club Nautico in Mazatlan

Espiritu rests in the Mazatlan commercial anchorage 

After a 150 mile passage from La Cruz, we've been in the Mazatlan commercial anchorage for 8 days now. Gratefully, the passage was relatively uneventful but for some minor lingering electrical issues. 

Our passage north featured fog, giant sea turtles, and the beautiful 
Southern Cross. It twinkled just above the horizon off our stern 
for much of my night watch. Magical. 

After a good night's sleep in the anchorage, we woke up to this on the sunrise horizon:

A Mexican military rocket taking off? Nuclear warhead? Whaaa? 

I have no idea what that was. It seemed to be launched from sea, to the southwest.

After the world didn't come to an end, we were thrilled to see our friends 
     Bret and Marne of s/v LeaHona had dropped anchor off our port bow. The four 
of us headed into town to explore Mazatlan.

This bus featured a cushioned ceiling, which besides being stylish, would come 
in handy should the bus be involved in a near-fatal rollover accident

First stop: the bustling old town mercado. 

Just being in the Mazatlan mercado makes me happy. Note my Trader Joes bag, 
   which has traveled 9 countries with the Espiritu crew (and no, there is not a 
Trader Joes in Mazatlan). 

Images from the mercado:

Pigs feet

Oh, dear. Well, at least he's smiling...?!?!?

Wonderful. (sigh) Well, at least I didn't see 
any Donald Trump masks for sale.

5 year old Mexican girl glued to her iPhone

Crazy Mexican Thing: they sell dozens and dozens of different varieties of soap bars. Some feature Jesus and spiritual themes (to wash away your sins?), others feature romantic or heroic images. But look at the one in the upper right corner. That's GRIM REAPER soap. I know...I have no idea...

Next to the mercado is the breathtaking Catholic Cathedral.

There was a very expensive wedding going on inside -- 
hundreds (thousands?) of white roses, as far as the eye can see. 

shoeshine in the town square

classic Mexican architecture

This stencil was on the wall outside a restaurant in the hip gallery district. 
The owner is clearly a Coen Brothers fan.

And stencilled further down on the wall of the same restaurant:

OK, these guys love The Big Lebowski AND Castaway. Maybe we should 
go in and introduce ourselves -- they definitely seem like kindred spirits...

Typical scene in the Mazatlan historical district.
 It's hundreds of years old.

Tribute to the buck, indigenous in the local mountains

Beautiful mural

Next stop, meeting friends for coffee at the historic Melville Hotel

Doorway to the hotel courtyard

The impossibly gorgeous Hotel Melville was built in the 1870's. It was named for the 
writer Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick), who spent time in Mazatlan in 1844.

The courtyard from above

The old town area is filled with galleries, nice restaurants, jazz and coffee houses. 
One word springs to mind: sophisticated. 

Speaking of restaurants, time to eat!

Noooooo! You three are trying to kill me, aren't you? 
Attempting a low carb lifestyle in Mexico is not for the faint of heart...

Good Lord. I tried to catch a photo of the pink Homer Simpson donut before someone took a bite out of it, but it was too late. By the way, have I shared my theory on fresh donuts? 

Donuts are The Devil. 

Now, hear me out. If you think about how the devil is described, fresh donuts meet every criteria. They fool you and lie to you, they make you feel SOOOO good, they tell you they love you and only you...killing you softly all the while. 

If that's not The Devil, then what is?

OK, OK, I'm joking. (Or AM I? I heard that 1 in 10 adults in the western world now has diabetes. Sounds like the devils work to me...)

Later, Marne posed outside the "Devil's Cave." Wonder what's in there?
 The bodies of countless victims, killed by donuts, possibly. 

Next stop, the beach!

Chris gazes out to sea (welcome to my world)...

Girl and twins play in the waves

pink and yellow sand

mangrove, beach and islands


Mazatlan beachfront 

This is the coolest thing: Mazatlan has built a large salt-water swimming pool and 
circular slide right on the main beach! And it's FREE. 

Happy Mazatlan boy at the pool and slide

Me swimming, and Marne observing

And YES, of COURSE I did the slide. 
That's me marking my territory.

By the way, it's sad that something like this would never be built in the USA in todays legal climate. It's a walking lawsuit waiting to happen. I'm sure kids have been killed diving into it's 4 foot "deep end." I don't know the answer. Is it worth a small number of kids deaths or severe injury for the fun of countless others? This is the quandry we all face. 

Back in the anchorage, I found out that C.S. Lewis superfan Bret has never 
        seen the movie Shadowlands.  I immediately cancelled our plans 
      (OK, OK, we had no plans...but still) and invited Bret and Marne over 
to Espiritu for movie night where, by an amazing coincidence, 
Shadowlands was playing that very night! 

Movie night on Espiritu

By the way, if you've never seen the 1993 film Shadowlands, drop what you're 
      doing and see it. Now. Sorry if I'm being bossy, but some things are just too important. 
It's really a practically perfect movie, and it's based on the true story of beloved 
         writer C.S. Lewis. It's smart, funny, romantic, philosophical, heartwarming, 
and of course, horribly, painfully sad. Bring the tissues. 

You're welcome. 

The next morning we got up early to make the climb to the 
Mazatlan lighthouse overlooking our anchorage.

World famous Mazatlan lighthouse

The steps are very steep at times

Chris bestowed his Papal Blessing to two sisters also making the climb

View from the top

This Mexican family climbed all the way to the top, 
even with a 3 month old baby. It was a Sunday morning, and his wife was working, 
so dad did some seriously cool babysitting duty. Note the First Mate t-shirt on little 
Eduardo down in front. 

Lastly, we're anchored at the Mazatlan commercial anchorage and using the services 
of Club Nautico ashore. 

This is our first time here, and all we'd heard were negatives: there's theft, it stinks due to the sanitation plant on shore, etc. 

We decided to see for ourselves, since the three Mazatlan marinas are very expensive. 

Club Nautico 

And now, without further adoo:



50 pesos (3 bucks) a day per boat buys you your own little slice of heaven


The bus stops right in front of the place, and for 6 pesos you can go anywhere in town. 
Plus, historical old town is an easy walking distance;


Chris lands our dinghy named Swamp Bucket 
at the Club Nautico dinghy dock


It's the calmest, least bounciest, smoothest, flattest anchorage we've ever been in. And we've been in hundreds. It's even better than in a typical marina, where the moaning and groaning of the lines and the dock can render sleep impossible.



and finally: 


One of the five felines who populate Club Nautico

Club Nautico cat #2

Cats #3 and #4

The water in the anchorage even looks clean, so I'm certain the sanitation
 plant pumps their refuse far out to sea.

Look, I'm not gonna lie. There is an occasional waft of malodorous air from the adjacent sanitation plant, but it only lasts a second and it passes.

The bathrooms...well...the less said about them the better.

Also, there's no diesel available anywhere nearby, so...

    ...Chris lugged the geri-jugs to the Pemex 
a mile away...with a smile. :-) 

And yes, there is theft. Our neighbors aboard Gia had their old, broken down binoculars stolen from their cockpit in the middle of the day by a 50'ish guy who swam out to the boat, grabbed the binocs and tried to swim away. 

He was caught and humbly returned them. 

All of the cruisers here lock everything up at night, including expensive outboards.  There is great poverty here, and to the typical working Mexican, we look like millionaires aboard our cruising sailboats. 

Lock everything up. Every time. Period. 

End of story -- and everyone's happy.